When using Windows, chances are you’ll want the CPU to prioritize apps that are running in the foreground. This is because apps or programs in the foreground are the ones you are currently using, so setting Windows to prioritize them will help them run better and faster. Windows does some of this by default, but manually selecting the right option can help you optimize performance.

To skip all the background and jump straight into the how-to, click here.

If you don’t quite get what this setting is, here’s a brief overview of some of the terms involved and how it works:

Let’s start with CPU. It stands for Central Processing Unit and can be thought of as the main brain of your computer. A CPU can also sometimes be referred to as a microprocessor or just processor. Put simply, the CPU processes all data and routes that data to the other components in your computer. No programs can run without it. Telling the CPU how to handle the programs and services it runs will affect their performance.

The setting that determines this is known as processor scheduling. It is called as such because it schedules the largest amount of processor(CPU) resources to the highest priority processes. There are actually two methods for changing this setting, but we’ll only be covering one. The method we’ll go over is accessed through advanced system settings.

When changing the processor scheduling setting through advanced system settings there are two options you can choose:

They are for preferring either the best performance of programs or of background services. In this case “programs” means those running in the foreground, the ones that you are currently using. If you’re wondering when you’d want this setting to be for “background services”, it’s usually chosen on servers, as for them background services are often the most important.

You can change this setting by editing the registry, instead of advanced system settings – but I don’t recommend it:

Other guides offer editing the registry as another way to change the processor scheduling setting, but I’d recommend not to do so. While it’s a perfectly valid way to change this setting, it’s not the best idea to make direct edits to the registry unless truly necessary. This is because the chance of messing things up by editing the wrong entry or entering the wrong value is fairly high.

It’s worth mentioning that the default Windows value for processor scheduling is actually a bit different than the one for preferring foreground applications. This may be the reason that some sites recommend editing the registry value, but it can also be successfully changed by switching to Background services and then back to Programs in the advanced system settings as will be shown in the steps below. So there’s no need to change anything in the registry manually as Windows will end up doing it for you.

You may be wondering how just toggling a setting back and forth could make it different from what it was originally set to:

Windows can be rather quirky like that. The explanation for why will get a bit technical. The entry in the registry called Win32PrioritySeperation is what determines the processor scheduling setting. It gets set to different values when changing the setting normally. However, if the setting has never been changed it starts at a default undefined value that doesn’t really do what either setting does even though it shows as being set to prefer program performance.

This default value is “2” hexadecimal. By switching the preferences setting from Background services then to Programs again and confirming it, the value is changed to “26” hexadecimal. This is the proper value for preferring the performance of foreground applications. The value for best performance of Background services is “18” hexadecimal. There are other values that can be set manually, but usually only very advanced users in specific situations would ever use them.

So for both safety and convenience we will just be covering changing this setting in advanced system settings. If you do decide to change the registry on your own, make sure you back it up first.

To access advanced system settings and change the processor scheduling setting, you need to open the System section of Control Panel:

Here’s how to do this in Windows 10:

  1. Open File Explorer (click on it on the taskbar or press Win + E) and then navigate to This PC if not already on it.
  2. Right click on the white background of the This PC page and then click on Properties.
  3. This will bring up the System section of the Control Panel. This page shows information about your computer and provides access to other settings. Click on Advanced system settings.
  4. This should open a new window to the Advanced tab of System Properties. Under Performance, click on Settings…
  5. Another new window will open. Click on the Advanced tab.
  6. On the Advanced tab under Processor scheduling click on the Programs bubble if it is not already selected. To make sure this setting is properly set even if the Programs bubble is already selected you need to click on Background services and then on Programs again. Click on OK when done. The setting should be saved and the window will close.
  7. Click OK on the remaining open window.
  8. While not absolutely necessary, it’s a good idea to restart your computer afterwards.

This process is very similar in Windows 8 and Windows 7:

While the previous steps were for Windows 10, they should work for Windows 8 and 7 as well. That being said, we’re also going to go over some slightly different steps using Windows 7 as an example. The following steps should work for Windows 8 as well.

  1. Open the Start Menu(click on it or press the Win key) and click on Control Panel.
    • Getting to the Control Panel in Windows 8 can be a bit trickier, but you can use the Win + X key shortcut to bring up the Power User Menu and then click on Control Panel.
  2. Once Control Panel is up, click on System and Security.
  3. Now that you’re on the System and Security page, click on System.
  4. On the System page, click on Advanced system settings.
  5. A new window will open. Click on the Settings… button under Performance.
  6. Another new window will open. Click on the Advanced tab.
  7. Under Processor scheduling click on the Programs bubble if it is not already selected. Even if the Programs bubble is already selected, you’ll want to make sure this setting is properly set by clicking on Background services and then on Programs again. Click on OK when done.
  8. As always, restarting your computer after making system setting changes is recommended.

Hopefully this guide has helped you change this setting and given your computer a bit of a performance boost. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the forum or leave a comment below.

Still stuck? Ask your question in our forum!

About Author

Ryder Lund

Since he was young Ryder has been drawn to technology and had a knack for working with and learning about it. He often ends up being tech support for friends and family because of this, so it feels natural to him to help out others by writing guides on using Windows. He enjoys living in the Pacific Northwest of Washington state where he is close to both nature and the bustling tech hub of the Seattle area.

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